Southern France, June 2016

France, British isles

Southern France, June 2016

Postby Noah Meier » Mon Jun 27, 2016 1:03 am

Hi everyone

As I wrote in my introduction here comes my french trip with from the 16th to the 23th of June. Because our trips from the last few years mostly tended to the eastern direction (Croatia, Italy or Greece) we were even more excited for this one here. Our journey started in the "Alpes maritimes" near Grasse. We visited there a spot for V.ursini on about 1500m. Afterwards we continued in western direction and had a quick stop at Gonfaron visiting the "village des tortues". Our last destination was another spot for V. ursini in the mountains of Vaucluse. During the journey of several hundred kilometres we used to make stops wherever we found locations looking like hotspots for herps.

I hope you enjoy it.

Bests,
Noah


Our first stop was near Sisteron were found a few species right next to a car parking.

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Lacerta bilineata in habitat near Sisteron


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This one was extremely curious and returned to his basking spot again...


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... and again


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A Podarcis muralis who was basking right next to an adult bilineata ... (no need to ask where he lost his tail)


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Tadpoles of Epidalea calamita


Also interesting was a (for us) new Euscorpius species. I think it should be Euscorpius flavicauda but I'm no expert in scorpions. So please correct me if someone doesn't agree.

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Euscorpius flavicauda, really strikingly are the yellow colored legs and the thorn


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Zygaena spec.


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Southern crab spider - Synema globosum; eating a bee


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Cocoons of Mantis religion were almost under every second stone. But only a few juveniles were visible in the meadows.


The visit of the ursini habitat was a pleasure even without finding an ursini. Early in the morning while we were observing the ground suddenly eight griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) were circling above us. Unfortunately we had only a 200mm lens with us.

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Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus)


We also found some P.muralis and a few L.bilineata. The highlight of this place were western three-toed skinks (Chalcides striatus) which were quite numerous around a few bushes.

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Lacerta bilineata


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First view to a Chalcides striatus


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... a bit closer


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Calchides striatus


Still between 1300 and 1400m we found a basking Vipera aspis.

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Vipera aspis aspis


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Portrait of Vipera aspis


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Roger with the viper


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Zamenis longissima



But as soon as we lost some hight the temperature increased immediately. In the lowlands (up to 500m) we had everyday from 10.30 to 18.30 about 30° degrees. As you all know this makes herping more difficult. After we were hiking for some hours in a stunning area finding only one Aesculapean snake who suffered heat at a half-shaded place we decided to look for Emys, Natrix natrix and maura in a nature reservate at a lake. We were happy find find all three species but unfortunately only managed to take pictures of an Emys orbicularis which was found diving in low and clear water. Some more pond turtles were found at a small river in the surroundings of Brignoles.

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habitat of Natrix maura, Natrix natrix and Emys orbicularis


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Pelophylax ridibundus


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A purple heron (Ardea purpurea)


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Natrix maura fleeing in the water


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An old pond turtle - Emys orbicularis


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Pond turtle in the river


At night we heard many mediterrean tree frogs (Hyla meridionalis) sitting in the trees along a river. Even when we stood a meter away from the singers we couldn't see any of them ...
To our surprise / pleasure a juvenile smooth snake (Coronella girondica) "saved" the night.

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Smooth snake (Coronella girondica)


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In portrait


After we found several moltings of the Montpellier snake and a quick view of one watching us from a gap of a stone wall we finally found to females under a flat stone.

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Molting of Malpolon monspessulanus


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Malpolon monspessulanus in its habitat


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In portrait


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Me handling one of the big females, what a fantastic snake!


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Habitat of Malpolon monspessulanus


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Small Mantis religiosa


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A stunner, which we have never seen before - Palpares libelloides


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Probably Leptynia hispanica


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Gonepteryx cleopatra; a quite often seen butterfly in the provence


In the Vaucluse Mountains we enjoyed great weather of 25°degrees, a few clouds and always a bit of sun. We saw one snake which probably was an V.ursini fleeing in a Juniperus bush. After that we only found some muralis and rarely a bilineata. So people begin taking pictures of nice orchids... :p

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Noah Meier
 
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Re: Southern France, June 2016

Postby Christoph Stenger » Mon Jun 27, 2016 6:10 am

Great Trip report! Reminds me of last year's trip and makes me want to go back there! Did you find any T. Hermanni?
Cheers

Christoph
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Re: Southern France, June 2016

Postby Ruggero Morimando » Mon Jun 27, 2016 6:50 am

Beautiful! But I'm pretty sure the Malpolon are two big females: males are more uniform in body color, head and labials are not so contrasted, saddle is darker and they can be even bigger than your specimens. I would say two big and wonderful females, and I have seen many Malpolon in Liguria, France and even at home in captivity in the past :D
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Re: Southern France, June 2016

Postby Kai Kolodziej » Mon Jun 27, 2016 6:58 am

Great report and wonderful finds.

cheers Kai
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Re: Southern France, June 2016

Postby Mario Schweiger » Mon Jun 27, 2016 7:38 am

Great report!
Like to see some insects and orchids beside the herps ;)
Your Pelophylax from Sisteron should be P. ridibundus, by marbled ventral side.
Sorry for the ursinii.
But in June, time is nearly over to spot them. They will be more out again at the end of uly and August, when there are more grashoppers in good size and numbers (following J.P. Baron)
Mario (Admin)

Please visit also my personal Herp-site vipersgarden.at
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Re: Southern France, June 2016

Postby Noah Meier » Mon Jun 27, 2016 9:17 am

Thank you guys!

Christoph Stenger wrote:Did you find any T. Hermanni?

Unfortunately not. The temperature was pretty hot and most of the other herps were found then by turning some stones. (Which is quite difficult for hermanni.)

Ruggero Morimando wrote:But I'm pretty sure the Malpolon are two big females: males are more uniform in body color, head and labials are not so contrasted, saddle is darker and they can be even bigger than your specimens.


You're probably right Ruggero. We have only seen insignitus before and I think there the females are even more contrasted. I didn't know that also the females of monspessulanus have those dark saddles. But thanks for that! :)

Mario Schweiger wrote:But in June, time is nearly over to spot them.


Yes, we knew that it's not the best season for ursini. Regarding the "viper-friendly", weather we enjoyed at 1500m, it still was a bit disappointing. But no question the meadow viper will be also a target on following trips. ;)
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Re: Southern France, June 2016

Postby Bobby Bok » Mon Jun 27, 2016 2:15 pm

Looks like a very nice trip with nice results, with or without ursinii ;)
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Re: Southern France, June 2016

Postby Noah Meier » Mon Jun 27, 2016 10:58 pm

Bobby Bok wrote:Looks like a very nice trip with nice results, with or without ursinii ;)


Indeed, it was!
Well, V.ursinii stays on the list of targets together with your P.urarachnoides. ;)
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Re: Southern France, June 2016

Postby Matthijs Hollanders » Tue Jun 28, 2016 11:35 am

Good trip! If everything goes right I'll be trekking from Briançon South towards Nice so hopefully I'll see some of the same animals.
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Re: Southern France, June 2016

Postby Noah Meier » Tue Jun 28, 2016 4:40 pm

Thank you Matthijs!
Good luck to you. The region is it worth, no matter what you find. ;)
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